Dynasty rankings are in constant flux, and staying informed is the key to making roster decisions for your fantasy football team. The Dynasty Watch series highlights some key takeaways from each week’s games.
It’s time to double down.
This offseason, I told you that the 2018 rookie running back class was the second-best in the past six years. We may have lost Derrius Guice to injury, but it’s still highly unlikely that every highly-drafted rookie outside of Saquon Barkley turns out to be a bust. A combination of draft capital, and the athleticism and college production metrics used in the RB Prospect Lab, are strong signals of success, and this is still one of the best RB classes in recent memory.
We’ve now reached a point where values may be at an all-time low, so let’s look at why now is the right time to pull the trigger.
I rarely recommend punting a season after just three weeks, but let’s face it, some teams are 0-3 and fully deserve it. If you’re one of those teams, consider making a move now for Guice if his owner is a contender in need of immediate help.
Sure, Chris Thompson is back and looking as spry as ever, capping the receiving upside of any RB sharing the backfield with him, but that hasn’t stopped 33-year-old Adrian Peterson from getting off to an RB7 start. If Guice is even half as good as he’s supposed to be, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be fed in a similar fashion, especially in contests with favorable game scripts.
The values here are inflated by two big wins, but the important thing is that once Washington gets within 10 yards of the end zone, they’ve had a clear preference for which RB to use so far.
Guice’s ACL tear happened early enough that he should have time to fully recover and slide right into the role he was projected for this year. It may not be possible to buy him at a discount depending on who owns him in your particular league, but make sure you at least check to see if his current owner is in a position where selling him makes sense, especially in leagues with no, or few, IR slots. Bye weeks tend to expose teams that lack depth, and owners holding Guice on their rosters may be desperate for starting bodies with the first bye upon us.
It looked like it might be Rashaad Penny’s time to shine as he had a slight opportunity edge on Chris Carson through the first two weeks.
But then the Seahawks finally played a game where they were protecting a lead, and Carson proceeded to out-touch Penny 34 to five.
Lost in the box score is the fact that Penny fumbled the ball on his final touch of the game. The fumble was credited to Russell Wilson on the handoff, but was pretty clearly Penny’s fault, and he failed to get another touch while Carson racked up 15 more carries.
It’s possible that Penny is actually just bad, overweight, or simply mired in a bad running game behind a bad offensive line. He’s done little so far to inspire confidence. Carson hasn’t set the world on fire either though, and it’s unlikely we see a repeat of such a severe split between the two players.
There was a lot to like about Penny as a prospect. While he’s still far from a sure thing, Penny’s draft capital ensures he’ll continue to get chances to prove himself, and that should make his value durable heading into next season even if he fails to break out as a rookie. Many Penny owners are in panic mode after last week’s debacle, so make some offers and see if they’re willing to get out on him now while the narrative is totally negative.
It’s hard to see how things could get much worse for Ronald Jones. After a preseason where he had more carries than yards gained and dropped multiple passes, Jones has been a healthy scratch over the first three weeks in favor of veteran Jacquizz Rodgers and the undrafted Shaun Wilson. The negativity surrounding Jones right now is palpable.
Still, we’ve only seen a very small sample size of Jones running behind a preseason second-string offensive line, that was really more like third-string due to injuries.
Let's take a look at Ronald Jones #Buccaneers film and put some context to his box score. 1st of 12 runs. 12 personnel vs 8 man front. Good read on the backer play side. Picks up a 1st down. pic.twitter.com/ngqGcoM5q4— Adam Spinks (@TheRBScout) August 23, 2018
Jones was repeatedly met deep in the backfield, and the fact that he had more carries than yards is thanks at least in part to some massive losses he took on such plays.
Jones graded out as a good prospect, and was the youngest RB in what was an overall very young class. He wouldn’t be the first young player to take time to acclimate to an NFL level of competition.
The other Buccaneer RBs also haven’t done much yet to hold Jones back.
As Hasan Rahim points out in the NFC Zero-RB Watchlist, Wilson is mostly active over Jones because of his role on special teams, but he’s actually been terrible in that role.
Jones will get his shot on the active roster soon, and once he does, even one big run will be enough for his value to immediately rebound if Barber continues to struggle.
Of course, it’s concerning that he’s been a healthy scratch on gamedays. We can’t ignore the multitude of negative signs, but neither can his owners. Jones can probably be had for a second-round pick in many leagues right now, and that’s a price I’d be willing to pay to see if he can rejuvenate his value.
After a strong preseason, Royce Freeman was supposed to be the savior of the non-Barkley rookie first-rounders. Enter Phillip Lindsay.
Lindsay had an excellent preseason as well, but the expectation was that he’d be used in a limited role as a complement to Freeman, not as part of an even split.
The touches for Freeman and Lindsay are almost dead even, however Lindsay actually missed the entire second half in Week 3 after being ejected for throwing a punch, so it’s likely they would be more in his favor had he not been called for the penalty.
The bad news is that Lindsay is not going away. His usage is not a fluke and the odds that Freeman will be used as a workhorse appear to be nil. The good news is that it’s still possible for Freeman to be productive as part of a committee.
There’s still hope for more work without an injury to Lindsay though, and it comes in the form of Devontae Booker finally relegated to the bench. Booker has done little with his opportunity thus far this year, and in his career for that matter, and it’s possible Freeman would soak up whatever work Booker leaves behind when the coaches finally decide they’ve had enough of him.
It may be difficult to buy low on Freeman at this point, as owners are still coming to terms with the fact that he’s part of a messy committee and not the bellcow they had hoped, but some may be getting nervous enough to consider moving on.
Todd Haley is a one-RB kinda guy. Carlos Hyde’s massive opportunity thus far is the stuff fantasy dreams are made of, unless of course you’re a Nick Chubb owner.
While it does mean Chubb is currently unstartable, it also means his upside if he’s ever able to get the starting role is fantastic. 2017 was Hyde’s first fully healthy season, and Chubb will be just one injury away from what is starting to look like one of the better roles in the league. While Hyde has played well thus far, he still has slightly negative efficiency on the year.
It’s not prudent to automatically assume Chubb takes over sooner rather than later. Predicting personnel decisions in Cleveland has proven to be a dangerous game. However Chubb is positioned to be a league-winner when he eventually does take over, so if his current owner needs immediate hep, see if you can offer a veteran player you can afford to part with in order to stash Chubb on your bench.
The Other Guys
With Kerryon Johnson finally breaking 100 rushing yards for the Lions, and Sony Michel riding a Rex Burkhead concussion up the depth chart, the buy window on both RBs has officially closed. Michel’s meteoric rise from a Week 1 inactive recovering from a troubled knee, to taking over a valuable role in the New England backfield, is a good reminder of just how fast things can shift in the NFL. Set yourself up to take advantage of the next situation that gets flipped on its head.
Sleeper of the Week
Each week I’ll use this space to highlight a player for deep dynasty leagues where every player already getting significant touches is already owned.
Poor Bruce Ellington just can’t stay healthy. He’s been productive for the Texans out of the slot in the games he’s played for them, but those games always seem to come in between devastating injuries.
The timing couldn’t be better for rookie Keke Coutee to get healthy, as he was Ellington’s primary competition for the WR3 role. Let me start off by saying: If Coutee is available, go grab him. We’re going deep here though, so the player I’m going to talk about is Vyncint Smith.
Smith is an undrafted wide receiver out of Division II Limestone College. He played 50 percent of the snaps in Week 1 with Will Fuller hurt and Sammie Coates going down with a hamstring injury, and 60 percent of the snaps in Week 3 when Ellington went down. Coutee’s return to health will probably relegate Smith mostly back to the bench,1 but Smith managed to beat out 2016 third-round pick Braxton Miller to even make it on to the 53-man roster, so it’s worth looking at him as a player that is largely unowned.
Standing at 6 feet 2 inches and weighing in at 197 pounds, Smith has good height for a WR. He also managed to run a sub 4.40 forty at his pro day, clocking in as low as 4.38. He complemented that with a 39.5-inch vertical jump, a 130-inch broad jump, and a three-cone time of 6.89 seconds. Smith is an excellent athlete.
Athleticism is often overrated for WRs though, so it’s nice to see that he also has a solid dominator rating to go along with a young breakout age. Limsestone College averaged less than 2,000 yards passing and fewer than 15 passing TDs during Smith’s time there though, so his raw numbers don’t jump off the page.
So far, the Texans have deployed him as a deep threat, with a monstrous 41 yard aDOT. It would not be at all surprising to see him catch a long TD sometime this season.
It will be an uphill battle for Smith to be relevant in his first year, but he has the size, speed, and production to perhaps eventually have a role in the NFL, and if Texans WRs continue to get injured at the rate they have thus far, he could even see more playing time this year.
- As he was in Week 2 when all three Texans starters were healthy. (back)